Cinema of Attractions

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Tom Gunning, Gaudreat, and Bean discussed the concept of cinema of attractions. This concept was important in the history of cinema since it encouraged the development of technologies that inspired filmmakers to experiment with moving images that led to the development of modern cinema. Cinema of attractions led to the change in the culture and industry of cinema because the films emphasized on temporary interruptions rather than temporary developments (Gaudreaut 2009). It also led to the change in cinema technology since it encouraged the development of high quality images. This essay starts by reviewing literature explaining the topic of cinema attractions. It then reviews literature by several scholars on this concept. It then presents my argument on how cinema of attractions has changed cinema culture, industry and technology.

According to Gunning (1994), cinema of attractions is a cinema that bases itself on the ability to show something. This is because it mainly concentrates on interacting with the viewer through the images that the viewer can see. Gunning further added that in cinema of attractions, as a viewer watches the camera, he develops an illusion that he is being watched by what they are watching, and thus this makes them self-aware as the audience. This concept mainly developed between 1907 and 1913 in the history of cinema. During this period, most of the filmmakers concentrated on creating unique images beyond the images of normal life.

Several scholars have tried to explain the concept of cinema of attractions and distinguish it from cinema narratives. According to Keil and Stamp (2004), cinema of attractions does not hide behind the pretense of an unacknowledged spectator. He claimed that it addresses the spectator directly and satisfies the curiosity of the viewer immediately. Dublek and Moshier and Boss (2004) stated that it invokes the interest of a particular spectator by posing an enigma to the spectator. This is achieved by delaying the resolution of that enigma so that it unfolds the final anticipated content. Narratives were somehow different from cinema of attractions, since a narrative allowed itself to be seen, but refused to acknowledge its complexity with the spectator. Gunnings added that the audience mainly perceived the curiosity by surprise through the sexualized scenes that were not allowed by the early taboos. Bean and Negra (2002) supported this claim by stating that scenes of cinema of attractions were sometimes violent and aggressive, as they displayed images filled with horror.

Cinema of attractions contributed to the cinema culture and film industry in several ways. It led to developments in films emphasizing on temporal interruptions rather than temporal developments. Most scholars studying cinema of attractions claim that, although they were certain temporarily developments in cinema of attractions, the filmmakers mainly wanted to emphasize the concept of sudden appearance and disappearance in order to arouse the surprise of the viewer (Stauven 2006). Edison proved this concept in his film What Happened on Twenty Third Street, New York. This film starts by showing a couple strolling along the streets of New York. When they approach the foreground of the camera, air current lifts the dress of the woman and the film ends after the couple reacts to this event (Poople and Kember, 2004). Some scholars argue that this film mainly followed the locomotive show described by Blackton. This show started with announcement of what was to come, a delay in its revelation, and then a sudden and climatic revelation. The display then ends and the attraction moves out of frame. Furthermore, cinema of attractions revolved around the act of display and anticipations by delaying or announcing these acts of display and interruptions.

Cinema of attractions contributed to the technology of the film industry by concentrating on producing images that were of high quality in order to spread their intended messages. Most images of the films produced in this era had images with a lot of color in order to capture the attention of the audience. In addition to this, Graudeault (2009) argued that cinema of attractions contributed a lot to the development of audiovisual films. He argued that despite the fact that films in this period were mainly silent films, cinema of attractions led to the development of audiovisual films that sometimes thrilled and shocked the audience. Some of the films showed sexual images that aimed at arousing the interest of the viewers (Valiaho, 2010). This was observed in the film Pull Down the Curtain, Susie shot by Biograph in 1904. This film shows a man watching a woman taking off her shirt and blouse. However, when she starts to remove her shift, she yanks down the curtain. In addition to this, they created visual curiosity through a direct and acknowledged act of display.

To conclude, the concept of cinema attractions contributed a lot to the history of film industry. It mainly led to the development of films that aimed at concentrating on interacting with the viewer through images that the viewers could observe. From the review of literatures by several scholars, such as Graudreault, Barnard, Stamp, Keil, Crangle, Boss and Bowser, it is clear that cinema of attractions aimed at engaging the viewer directly by satisfying his curiosity immediately. These scholars also showed how this concept differed from the narratives developed during the same era. Cinema of attractions contributed to the cinema culture since it led to the developments of films that emphasized temporary interruptions rather than temporary developments (Gunnings, 1994). This was achieved by developing films that concentrated on sudden appearance and disappearance of scenes. It also contributed to the technology of cinema, since it led to the development of high quality images that aimed at interacting with the viewer (Browser, 1994). Some of these images showed horrifying or sexual scenes. Researchers should consider investigating the area of criticism that is associated with the concept of cinema of attractions.

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